Transcend a typical travel experience at the JW Marriott Resort and Spa in Cancun, Mexico. A little bit of planning, sunscreen and an appetite is all you need for a fabulous time at this destination. Whether you’re with family, friends or your love, this is a stunning destination that provides many opportunities for the adventurous or those seeking sand, sun and simplicity. An entire week of relaxation, culture, activities and delicious cuisine made for the most thrilling honeymoon. Here are the highlights, tips and an encompassing review of the hotel and restaurants during our stay.
Balinesa “bali” bed heaven – One of the greatest attributes of our service and experience at the hotel was renting the ocean front balinesa “bali” beds. There are VIP bali beds that are ocean front and right next to the pool and regular bali beds with an ocean view. The pricing is $100 to $130 USD per day, which isn’t bad considering all the amenities you receive for the price.
I’m telling you, a rental like this would be $500 plus somewhere like Vegas. The beds are larger than a king size, covered completely in shade with padded lounge chairs right next to them for sunbathing. You receive a personal waiter, water bottles, a fruit basket and towel service each day. You can order lunch from the Beachwalk bar and grill to your bed, which is what we did almost every day. The service is impeccable, as these waiters are really on their toes to make sure you’re satisfied.
Tip: Book these in advance, especially during busy times of the year. I made sure to book this months in advance with the concierge assistant Yazmin, who was amazing! If you want to save money, book the regular bali beds. The only difference is no direct walk-in pool access, but there’s still an ocean view and the same stellar service.
Romantic dinner by the beach – Have you ever wanted to have an exclusive, private dinner right on the beach? No shoes are required for this reservation. While the price tag is $295 per couple, you can book a completely private dinner with your own waiter right on the beach. I got the Chilean sea bass and my husband Scotty got the filet.
While I would say the food was good, it wasn’t the best we had on the trip, but the experience made this splurge worth it. Listen as the waves come in, soft music plays and your waiter pours a glass of wine while catering to your every need.
Tip: The Romantic Dinner Package includes an appetizer, citrus sorbet, two main entries, two desserts, a bottle of wine and taxes and gratuities. This luxury involves two hours of a leisurely experience and private cozy cabana area. Book it through your concierge.
A morning at the spa – You won’t regret spending a little for a massage or service at the large, inviting spa. We did a couple’s massage for our honeymoon and afterwards they walked us down to a private pool area with swan shaped towels, chocolate covered strawberries and champagne. It was a sweet gesture and completely unexpected. There is also a fitness center on the same floor.
The hotel lobby bar – Surprisingly we spent a lot of time in the hotel lobby bar area, enjoying drinks each night, relaxing after dinner and listening to the live music & entertainment, which was provided almost every evening. This lounge area is jamming pretty much every night and has spacious comfortable seating areas for large or small parties. Definitely a cozy area to wind down or start your night.
Gustino’s – This Italian restaurant on the JW Marriott’s property has great pasta, a huge meat and cheese tray, and a romantic ambiance with a live saxophone player. While the food is delicious here, be careful with the menu. When they say a specific ounce size under the food items, they aren’t kidding. We ordered pasta dishes which we thought were meal sizes and turned out to be small side dishes. However, our experience was overall great and the waiter was friendly and attentive.
Tip: Make sure to make reservations, this is a popular place. Dress code is formal.
Mikado (Marriott Casa Magna) – This Japanese hibachi and sushi restaurant was a great place to go on our first night at the hotel after a long day of traveling. We decided to forgo the hibachi group table and sit at a table by ourselves. The restaurant is located on the right side of the Marriott resort in Casa Magna, as it is connected through the conference room area from the JW Marriott, only a five minute walk away. We kept it simple with an appetizer, sushi and rice for our main meals.
Tip: Dress code is casual.
La Capilla Argentina (Marriott Casa Magna) – This Argentina steakhouse next door was a delightful dinner for the two of us. The seafood linguine is a pleasing bowl of flavor with bits of grouper, mussels, shrimp and scallops that satisfied my never-ending seafood craving. Scotty got the 16 oz rib-eye which did not disappoint. The restaurant has a warm and exciting feeling of Spanish, French and Italian vibes blending together. During our meal we watched as professional dancers performed the Argentine tango and other exciting dance moves.
Tip:Dress code is casual.
Sedona Grill – Located right at the JW Marriott with great views of the ground’s pools, this southwestern restaurant is a great place to try local Mexican cuisine. When we stayed there, there was a Mexican buffet one evening that was a great bang for your buck. This includes a salsa bar, taco bar, create your own enchiladas, and several authentic Mexican dishes. There are also performers who come around and sing while you eat, which makes for a festive touch and great dinner.
Tip: Dress code is casual.
Harry’s Steakhouse & Raw Bar (Blvd. Kukulkan) – This pricier restaurant was one we chose to go to on Christmas Eve, and it was an incredible choice. Just a quick taxi ride away from the hotel, we wanted to try a local restaurant that had great reviews. This restaurant definitely lives up to its hype and was pretty much the best meal we had on our vacation. We sat outside at a little table for two, with views of the ocean and garden.
The restaurant is beautiful in itself with stone architecture and airy, open concept. I enjoyed succulent giant shrimp, Scotty had a perfectly cooked filet, and we shared six cheese macaroni and Harry’s gratin potatoes which were great accompaniments. For dessert and a surprise, the waiter brought out two large cotton candies and a complimentary chocolate cake with a sparkler on it!
Tip:Book this in advance, it’s a top restaurant in the area and reservations go quickly. Our concierge booked this for us way ahead of time. Dress code is casual, but I found people to be dressed somewhat formal.
Quick & very casual bites: If you’re looking for some comfortable American bar food while you’re on your trip or you have to catch a sports game, Champions Sports Bar at Casa Magna is easily accessible. For late night eats or grab-and-go refreshments, the JW hotel’s gift shop and 750 Pizzeria is a good place to get snacks, coffee, water or New-York style pizza.
Plan an airport shuttle with the hotel: You can set up a shared or private shuttle from $17 to $55. This insures a secure travel plan so when you arrive at the airport there’s no confusion in finding your transportation, as it can be a little hectic there with all the transportation companies.
Review activities before you go: There is a plethora of things to do while you’re in Cancun, so make the most of it by planning ahead and reading through your options. Some of these options include; tours of the Mayan ruins, eco parks, snorkeling, zip lining, cruise tours, fishing, scuba diving, jungle tours and more. Then you won’t feel pressured or overwhelmed when you get there and aren’t sure what you want to do. Plan a whole day for a trip to Chichen Itza because it takes about three to four hours to get there from the hotel.
Expect a language and currency barrier: One of the harder issues was being primarily English speaking tourists in a Spanish speaking world. This may seem obvious, but expect to do a little math for pesos to USD calculations for the tours or simply shopping. Be prepared because little local shops most likely don’t even have US change to give back to you. When we took a cab to dinner at one point the only currency the driver accepted was pesos, so we had to do an exchange at the front desk of the hotel and they made us sign some documents and show our passport to do so – which was fine, but time consuming.
If it’s your honeymoon, enjoy freebies! Whenever we would tell our waiter that it was our honeymoon, we often enjoyed free champagne or a dessert at the end of our meal. It also wasn’t just a plain dessert, they would always write out a fancy message or make it special in some way. Overall, all these little gestures made us feel appreciated as guests at the JW Marriott and we were treated very well during our stay.
Check out our amazing day at Chichen Itza discovering the Mayan ruins here.*All photos are by Sarah Guiler